automatic sprinkler system watering the lawn on a background of green grass, close-up

Drought Preparations and Irrigation Requirements in Your Local Municipality

Summer is coming!  While Florida typically enjoys a long rainy season every year, with continued climate changes the chance of encountering an extended drought is increasing with each year.  It is possible maintain a beautiful green lawn even when the dry season seems to last longer or when local reservoirs have not yet recovered from last year’s lack of rainfall. It takes a little effort and attention, but can be accomplished without spending anymore on landscaping, chemicals or even time.

Think Ahead to Avoid Drought Damage

A healthy lawn is best able to withstand an extended dry period.  A well-established lawn grows deep roots which are better able to draw moisture from a foot or two beneath the surface.  Build your robust grass by:

  • Providing sufficient nutrients to encourage vigorous growth during wet periods, but not too much.  Constant fertilization reduces the plants’ natural ability to protect itself.
  • Reducing thatch and compression to allow easier expansion down into the soil.
  • Maintain a good moisture level over a long period. This allows the water to work its way down into the soil, supporting better root systems.
  • Use a mulching mower.  The clippings create a nutrient rich mulch that self-feeds the lawn and protects root systems.
  • Raise your cutting deck to 2″.  The blades of grass provide shade for the soil and roots.

Water Once or Twice a Week for a Healthier Lawn

Even after the dry season begins, it can be tempting to increase the number of times you water per week.  This is actually damaging to healthy sod.  When you water every day for just a few minutes, the grass learns to take its needed moisture from the surface of the soil.  When the watering schedule is suddenly reduced by enforced restrictions, your lawn is simply unable to take advantage of water that is being stored deeper underground as the root system was never encouraged to grow.

When you provide thirty to forty minutes of water on an area, the plant cannot use all the water at once. The moistures seeps down into the earth, where it is stored for use later in the week.  A healthy root system will reach down deep to extract all the nutrients the grass needs. Your lawn will stay green much longer as the summer heat lingers and the water table begins to recede.

Common Restrictions During the Height of the Summer

Many municipalities, counties and towns will enforce water restrictions on an annual basis and will fine home and business owners who don’t comply.

  • Twice a Week or Odd/Even Schedules:  Most cities will provide you a schedule for which days you are allowed to water.
  • Limited Watering During Morning or Evening: Your lawn actually prefers to receive its water before the sun starts to sear green leaves. Less water evaporates and is better able to be utilized by your plants.
  • Micro-Watering Allowed:  Generally your town won’t restrict when you can water a pot of tomatoes or small flower garden.
  • Exceptions for New Lawns:  If you just put down sod or seed, your town will allow for more generous watering schedule for the first 60 days.

You will need to check with your local government for all the specific details to ensure you remain in compliance.

Use Reclaimed Water on Your Schedule

If you have rain barrels or other water reclamation systems on your property, there is no restriction on its application or use.  This can provide a needed boost during dry periods.  You may have to post a sign stipulating your use of reclaimed water. It’s a wonderful benefit for small yards and vegetable gardens.

Reduce Foot Traffic During Extended Droughts

Once you are in an extended drought, you’ll need to protect your lawn from any kind of stress and damage.  Avoid high foot traffic as each step crushes fragile blades of grass that are struggling to maintain a healthy shape.  By installing walkways you can reduce the wear and damage that pedestrians can cause. You will also want to reduce the frequency of your mowing schedule.  If you have a lawn service, make sure to speak to them to ensure your grass isn’t cut down to the brown, brittle stubs just because it’s on the schedule. Only mow if the grass is healthy and at least 2 1/2 to 3 inches tall.